Caleb Carr: The NYT Profiles Him and His New House





Joyce Wadler, in the NYT (5-12-05):

ONE could not call the road sign to Caleb Carr's 1,400-acre property in Rensselaer County welcoming. "Private land," it warns. Then there's the forbidding name of the spread: Misery Mountain Farm.

Drive a mile, and you will come to a big stone house so freshly built that it seems to carry a just-born dampness. In places you can still smell the wood. The idea, Mr. Carr has said, was to build an old house, a house so historically accurate, so in harmony with its surroundings, that it would seem to have been there for 200 years. But it is too fresh, too bare for that. It is also, with its wraparound porch and pillars, far too grand to be a typical house in this rural community 180 miles north of New York City.

Still, the fellow who eventually comes to the door is friendly enough. His graying hair, which hangs past his shoulders, is still wet from the shower. His clothing is worn and comfortable: a stretched-out sweater, blue chinos and old wool socks. There is a blue fabric brace on his right arm.

"I, like most of my friends, couldn't believe I bought a mountain called Misery Mountain, because it was so appropriate," Mr. Carr said later, settled on the back porch in that most bucolic of human furnishings, a rocking chair.

No kidding? He seems pretty mellow now.

"I have a grim outlook on the world, and in particular on humanity," he said. "I spent years denying it, but I am very misanthropic. And I live alone on a mountain for a reason."

Mr. Carr, a novelist and military historian, is 49. He has been known as an angry guy since the success of his 1994 novel, "The Alienist," a mystery about a serial killer set in 1890's New York. A million-dollar book deal did not seem to mute that anger.

When critics attacked his 2002 book, "The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again" (Random House), Mr. Carr posted an online harangue against those critics - and the subtext seemed to be female critics - "who somehow think they have been suddenly, magically endowed with a thorough knowledge of military history," and "are therefore just as qualified to review books on that subject as they are to chatter about bad women's fiction."

But now, in his new house in the upstate township of Cherry Plain, which has a church and a post office and not much more, Mr. Carr is open and undefensive. Sitting on the back porch overlooking a brook, he discusses being an angry guy, but except for the subject of his book about terrorism, he does not display anger....

Mr. Carr grew up in domestic chaos. Violence predated him.

His father, Lucien Carr, who died in January, was a journalist, a friend of the novelists Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs and the poet Allen Ginsberg, and an alcoholic. As a 19-year-old student at Columbia, Lucien Carr was involved in a notorious crime. When a man he knew made sexual advances toward him, Lucien Carr stabbed him to death. Mr. Kerouac helped him dispose of the body by tossing it into the river. Lucien Carr served two years in prison for manslaughter and was later pardoned. One newspaper reported that at his trial the uninterested defendant carried a volume of Yeats. It is not a detail of which Caleb Carr is unaware.

"At that age he was a killer, but he was not immune to affectation," Mr. Carr said."These guys were nothing but affecting. My father sat around bellowing till very late in the night about love, truth, beauty. If there were things these guys often missed it was love, truth and beauty."

Mr. Carr, who grew up on a tough block on the Lower East Side, would not be specific about the violence in his childhood home. Let's just say there is a reason he has insight into violent behavior, he said. His father was a drunk, and after his parents divorced and his mother remarried, his stepfather also drank. Caleb Carr was one of three sons, and his stepfather had three daughters. The offspring called themselves the Dark Brady Bunch.


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Cordelia c Carr - 11/15/2007

I loved the Angel of Darkness which was recommended to my daughter after a personal incident which changed her life. I felt a connection to Sarah and also to the author. I would love to communicate with Mr. Carr to learn more about his past and where its led him. My email is cordeliacarr@msn.com. :)


Bob Heller - 6/6/2005

How I empathize with Carr and would relish meeting the gent. As a writer and journalist, I see through the morass of contemporary American culture and often feel that I might be happier elsewhere. In one of my books on understanding America I borrowed a phrase from Bill Clinton and adapted it for reference to "It's the Money, Stupid!" And, that's what we're all about, isn't it? A fascinating segment on a tortured and fascinating man.


Bob Heller - 6/6/2005

How I empathize with Carr and would relish meeting the gent. As a writer and journalist, I see through the morass of contemporary American culture and often feel that I might be happier elsewhere. In one of my books on understanding America I borrowed a phrase from Bill Clinton and adapted it for reference to "It's the Money, Stupid!" And, that's what we're all about, isn't it? A fascinating segment on a tortured and fascinating man.


Bob Heller - 6/6/2005

How I empathize with Carr and would relish meeting the gent. As a writer and journalist, I see through the morass of contemporary American culture and often feel that I might be happier elsewhere. In one of my books on understanding America I borrowed a phrase from Bill Clinton and adapted it for reference to "It's the Money, Stupid!" And, that's what we're all about, isn't it? A fascinating segment on a tortured and fascinating man.


Bob Heller - 6/6/2005

How I empathize with Carr and would relish meeting the gent. As a writer and journalist, I see through the morass of contemporary American culture and often feel that I might be happier elsewhere. In one of my books on understanding America I borrowed a phrase from Bill Clinton and adapted it for reference to "It's the Money, Stupid!" And, that's what we're all about, isn't it? A fascinating segment on a tortured and fascinating man.


David P Dutra - 6/6/2005

The CBS Sunday morning show was a shocker! For several reasons. First, although I consider myself fairly well informed, I've never heard of this author or his work - talk about an opportunity cost! I was enamored with his obvious intellect and thoughtful contemplation. I consider myself an outsider as well (for more reasons than even Mr. Carr can contemplate) and fully appreciate what raw and unequivocal truth can do to people steeped in beliefs rather than knowledge. Oh, I could blather my brains out here but I think you get the idea. Anyway, you're always welcome to visit me if you want at http://www.davidonline.net


carole del monte - 6/5/2005

Seeing him for the first time this morning (6/5/05), we saw a most interesting man with interesting & relevant views. The average American today can relate to many things that "bug" him, because they "bug" us, too. I'd been intending to read his "The Italian Secretary", but hadn't remembered that he's the author. This is a man I'd love to have a conversation with. My husband, our friends and I have often had discussions on the topics that Mr. Carr has pondered. Wow, even his solitude is a great idea, and one we'd love to explore. The spiral staircase that makes it difficult for people to climb and bother him at work in his office, is of particular interest to my husband, who writes a weekly Arts column, and whom I leave alone to his own thoughts and ruminations. This is our kind of guy!